Belles Golf Sets Conference Record, Qualifies for NCAA Tournament // The Observer
Saint Mary’s Golf entered the spring season with a chip on its shoulder. The Belles used to be the class of the MIAA. However, they finished third in both MIAA Jamboree events in September and October.
“We didn’t play up to our abilities in the fall. But they’ve worked hard this offseason,” head coach Jordan Koehler said.
The Belles have also been spurred on by a tough schedule throughout the spring. They began playing at the University of Washington Spring Invitational in early April. They then shot two of their best rounds of the spring, finishing tenth in a very competitive field. The Belles continued to play in tough pitches without the spring, and the busy spring schedule prepared the three-time defending conference champions for the past weekend.
“We played a very tough spring schedule, so I think that really helped us prepare for the last week of the conference,” Koehler noted. “Very good performance from our team. We had three of our best spring races this weekend.
Koehler singled out some high-profile individual performances for the Belles. Junior Isa Patacsil struggled in the first of three rounds of the conference tournament. The Belles still took a 17-stroke lead. Patacsil returned to action with a career-best 78 on Friday afternoon in terrible weather conditions. “It was pouring rain about two-thirds of the way through Friday,” Koehler said. “Isa has been able to lock in and find his focus and rhythm over the past two days.” Patacsil then shot a 77 on Saturday in the Belles deciding round.
Saint Mary’s lone senior, Sydney Hruskoci, topped the individual standings in rounds one and three. She tied Belles junior Erin Bennett’s 80 on Day 1. In the final round, Hruskoci cleaned up with a 74. “She’ll be the first to tell you she didn’t have the spring season that she necessarily hoped,” Koehler commented on Hruskoci. “Really successful for us, especially yesterday. 74 is what she is capable of.
Meanwhile, Bennett shot two more individual top-10 rounds with an 85 and an 82 over the final two rounds. Sophomore Haley Angel delivered three consistent rounds. She shot 82, 81 and 78, never finishing outside the top three individual finalists. Junior Katherin Hopkins never finished outside the top 10 with three rounds of 81, 83 and 84.
The Belles won all three sets of the event and set a conference record with a 960 over all three sets. He broke Hope College’s previous record of 962. In three rounds, Saint Mary’s ousted Hope by 56 strokes to advance to the NCAA Tournament. The Belles accomplished the feat with only one senior and a lot of inexperience.
“The most important thing is to bring the experience to everyone on our roster. The three juniors in my top five basically have the experience of my freshmen [due to COVID]”, Koehler said. “This is basically their first full season of golf. The more tournament rounds and experience they have under their belt, the more confidence they gain.
Now it’s time for another NCAA Tournament for the Belles. Excluding the canceled 2020 tournament, this is Saint Mary’s fourth consecutive tournament. Their best result in this sequence is 14th. The Belles finished 17th last year, failing to make the cut. The top 15 teams qualify for the fourth and final round. Koehler stressed the need to improve his short game ahead of his final spring tournament. “Shell and put. The course in Houston requires you to hit the greens,” Koehler asserted. “If you are not, you will have difficult ups and downs. It will demand a lot from our short game.
If the Belles can lock down their short game, they’ll be aiming for their best finish at the NCAA Tournament. “Most of the pressure is off, but the job isn’t done. We really want to make the cut,” Koehler said.